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Public schools in New York City will close again on Thursday, officials announced, after the city reached a 3% Covid test positivity rate.
The New York Times first reported the closure plan, citing an email to principals from Richard Carranza, chancellor of the largest public-sector schools system in the US.
In a tweet, Carranza said: “Health and safety have always been our first priority for students, staff and families. To protect our school communities and our city, beginning tomorrow, all schools buildings will be closed, and all learning will proceed remotely, until further notice.”
Stoking anger among parents hard-pressed to balance working from home with the demands of schooling and childcare, gyms remain open in the city, as does indoor dining at restaurants, both at reduced capacity.
Around 300,000 of 1.1 million pupils in the New York City public schools system have been attending some form of in-person learning since Mayor Bill de Blasio began reopening schools in September, following months of fully remote learning after the city became a global coronavirus hotspot in the early spring.
Positive tests have been increasing in recent weeks but the in-school positivity rate is currently below 0.2%.
On Twitter on Wednesday, De Blasio cited “an abundance of caution” and said: “We must fight back the second wave of Covid-19.”
At a press briefing that started four hours after its usual daily time, De Blasio said: “This morning we had bad news. We spent some time confirming it and double checking it, because it is exactly on the number of 3%.
“As a result, we do need to close our schools for the coming days. No one is happy about this decision. We all, in fact, are feeling very sad about this decision, because so much good work has been put into keeping the schools open.”
The mayor added: “We’re going to fight this back. This is a setback, but it’s a setback we will overcome.”
The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has a history of clashing with De Blasio, had suggested schools could be kept open through expanded testing. On Wednesday, shortly before the announcement schools would close, Cuomo suggested the city could soon be forced into a two-week school shutdown under state rules.
He also clashed with a reporter who said parents were confused.
“They’re not confused,” said Cuomo. “You’re confused. Read the law and you won’t be confused.”
The 3% test positivity rate is according to city standards. By the state count, positive tests in New York City are at 2.5%.
De Blasio insisted city and state were working hand in hand.
“I want that to be clear,” he said. “We have stringent health and safety standards right now. We have to raise that even higher to be able to bring our schools back, but that is exactly what we are going to do.”
In a statement, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said: “The city established the 3% infection rate threshold to make sure that schools did not become centers to spread the coronavirus.
“Since the 3% rate has been reached, education will continue but all students will be learning remotely. Now it’s the job of all New Yorkers to maintain social distance, wear masks and take all other steps to substantially lower the infection rate so school buildings can reopen for in-person instruction.”
De Blasio said schools would remain closed at least through the Thanksgiving holiday, which falls at the end of next week. Plans for reopening would be announced soon, he added.
Speaking to the Guardian last week, Ngozi Ebinum, a mother in the Bronx who has three children in public schools, said “hybrid” instruction was already difficult.
“I want them to go to school,” she said, “because this in-house is not working at all. It’s kind of a mess and crazy. They need to do something. It’s difficult for us to connect [to the internet for virtual classes] … It’s not working for us.”
She added: “Please don’t close the schools. Whatever they’re doing [during] the pandemic, they should figure it out, because we’re suffering here.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: New York City public schools to close again as coronavirus cases rise | New York